Big little rise treads common ground

Sydney author Liane Moriarty is deservedly riding high on the success of her novels.

Author Liane Moriarty, 14 million books sales and counting.

Author Liane Moriarty, 14 million books sales and counting.

With star power in the form of Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon behind her hugely successful novel Big Little Lies – which they produced into the equally successful television series that now includes Meryl Streep in the cast — Moriarty clearly has friends in high places.

And having sold a staggering 14 million copies of her books worldwide, Moriarty is without question a literary force on a global scale.

So it's no wonder that expectations are high for her new book, Nine Perfect Strangers, which is set at a health retreat. A group of stressed strangers from the city are drawn together to drop their "mental baggage".

Moriarty and Pan Macmillan have been in the midst of an extensive media blitz, promoting the book.

Until PS called, that is, posing questions about similarities between Moriarty's work and that of another Sydney author, Fiona Higgins, only to receive a threatening, four-page legal letter penned by the publisher and Moriarty's lawyers.

PS approached Moriarty for comment after several readers of both authors suggested there were similarities between Higgins' books The Mothers' Group and Fearless and Moriarty's novels Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers.

Fellow author Fiona Higgins delves into similar themes as Moriarty in her books.

Fellow author Fiona Higgins delves into similar themes as Moriarty in her books.

In both instances, Higgins' books were published up to two years before Moriarty's, though Higgins has only been published in Australia through Allen & Unwin while Moriarty has enjoyed global adulation and success.

Higgins declined to comment to PS, and her publisher Allen and Unwin issued a statement saying: "We see nothing behind the similarities you suggest, which seem most unfair. Many works of fiction share themes and settings and ideas but are firmly their own creation."

The Mothers' Group is about six mothers during their first year after giving birth. Website Goodreads calls it "an unflinching and compelling portrait of love, sex, marriage and parenting in an increasingly complicated world".

Nicole Kidman, left, and Reese Witherspoon accept the award for outstanding limited series for "Big Little Lies" at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards last year.

Nicole Kidman, left, and Reese Witherspoon accept the award for outstanding limited series for “Big Little Lies” at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards last year.

Goodreads meanwhile describes Moriarty's Big Little Lies as following "three women, each at a crossroads … a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive".

Moriarty's lawyers informed PS: "Big Little Lies is set in a primary school and is about various domestic issues around motherhood and relationships. Presumably, if both authors are writing about issues relating to mothers and the domestic sphere in a suburban setting, they are likely to touch on some of the same issues."

As for Nine Perfect Strangers and Higgins' Fearless: "There are no similarities between the two novels, apart from the fact that both books are about a group of people attending a retreat. In fact, as you are no doubt aware, the concept of groups of strangers attending retreats, resorts, hotels, conferences is not a matter which is exclusive to novels of either Ms Higgins or Ms Moriarty."

Moriarty's lawyer also informed PS the author "had substantially progressed with authoring Nine Perfect Strangers prior to becoming aware of Ms Higgins' novel".

Tilley's nightmare finally ends

The millionaire heir to one of Sydney's greatest pub fortunes, Phillip De Angelis, has pleaded guilty to a range of domestic violence charges, including assault occasioning actual bodily harm and recklessly wounding his former lover,  the glamorous socialite, high profile interior decorator and mother of three, Nellie Tilley.

Phillip De Angelis and Nellie Tilley in Ibiza in 2015.

Phillip De Angelis and Nellie Tilley in Ibiza in 2015.

De Angelis is due to be sentenced on November 15, his lawyers having struck a deal with the police prosecutor that resulted in many of the original 25 lesser charges brought against him being withdrawn.

However, he has now admitted guilt to charges that carry potential jail sentences. De Angelis remains on bail until his sentencing hearing, but he was advised by Magistrate Clare Farnan to show the court cause why she should not send him to prison.

De Angelis has also agreed, without admission, to a 12-month AVO banning him from going near Tilley or making contact with her.

In April last year, PS revealed that Tilley had confided in friends she had "no choice" but to go to the police and seek charges against her former lover.

This week's guilty plea has brought an end to a two year "nightmare" for Tilley, who has refrained from speaking about the matter publicly but told friends this week: "It doesn't matter what socioeconomic demographic you fall into, domestic violence does not discriminate."

Tilley, a mother of three boys, is well known in Sydney's influential eastern suburbs and is the former wife of Simon Tilley, brother of James Packer's confidant Ben Tilley. The 53-year-old is a regular at charity fundraisers and red carpet events.

Nellie Tilley has told friends she has discovered who her "real" friends are following her domestic violence ordeal.

Nellie Tilley has told friends she has discovered who her “real” friends are following her domestic violence ordeal.

Until now, Tilley's life has appeared glamorous, having dated some of Sydney's leading bachelors, including finance executive and former Goldman Sachs boss Simon Greenaway.

Former boyfriend Phillip De Angelis, 37, is a member of one of the country's most powerful pub families. His uncle is Arthur Laundy, one of the wealthiest publicans in Australia, while his cousin Stu Laundy became a television star after featuring on reality television series The Bachelorette and winning – albeit momentarily – Sophie Monk's heart.

Tilley has managed to continue on with her work following the calamitous end of her two-year relationship with De Angelis.

In February, she pocketed more than $6 million from the sale of her Double Bay terrace, well above the $2.38 million she paid for it in 2014.

"It has been a very difficult time for her to keep running the business and look after her sons, but she has come through it. She is a very strong woman," one of her friends told PS this week.

"She rightly feels vindicated … and the whole ordeal has made it abundantly clear to Nellie who her true friends really are."

Game, set … wait for the dispatch

One of the best (and worst) things about the news game is its unpredictability, as the makers of Berlei bras and their star ambassador, tennis champion Serena Williams, now know only too well.

Tension: Serena Williams after losing the US Open final.

Tension: Serena Williams after losing the US Open final.

Before Williams' now infamous meltdown at the US Open final, Berlei stitched up several Australian-only media deals – including one with Herald publisher Fairfax Media's Sunday Life, out tomorrow. The interviews with the tennis star were intended to be published and broadcast tomorrow in a co-ordinated campaign to promote a breast cancer initiative that the bra company was launching.

But then the game changed. Williams' on-court outburst became THE global news story.

In Australia, it was further fuelled by the controversy over Herald Sun cartoonist Mark Knight's depiction of Williams, which has been widely labelled racist.

While the Aussie media got to interview Williams nearly a week and a half ago, broadcast outlets including Channel Ten's Sunday Project and KISS FM's Dave Hughes and Kate Langbroek have had to sit on undoubtedly one of the hottest interviews imaginable after agreeing to Berlei's conditions.

Lisa Wilkinson with Serena Williams in New York nearly two weeks ago.

Lisa Wilkinson with Serena Williams in New York nearly two weeks ago.

To her credit, Williams stuck to her media commitments and went on with the interviews, though a Berlei representative confirmed to PS that the media was asked not to focus on her meltdown and that she would not respond to questions about the Herald Sun cartoon lest it overshadow the reason for the interviews in the first place: a breast cancer campaign.

Behind the scenes, the contractual obligations with Berlei have caused all sorts of headaches, not least for the Sunday Project, which is desperate for a ratings boost given negative press about lacklustre audience numbers.

Star recruit Lisa Wilkinson was dispatched to New York for a "top secret" interview with Williams. Wilkinson managed to get to air last week a brief teaser of the interview, promising all will be revealed on Sunday.

"Yes, I most definitely did ask a number of questions about the meltdown," the journalist told PS, while declining to answer whether she had asked Williams about the Herald Sun cartoon, given it was such a big part of the story in Australia.

Radio hosts Dave Hughes and Kate Langbroek have also expressed frustration at sitting on the interview, with Langbroek taking to Twitter to call the situation "Ridiculous. Frustrating. Counterproductive for Berlei".

Bon Scott and the vanishing Triumph

Stuart Coupe's excellent new book Roadies: The Secret History of Australian Rock'n'Roll has unearthed a man who must be this country's longest serving roadie,  Kerry Cunningham, and he is still at it after 40-odd years.

Cunningham tells Coupe about a character named Ray Arnold, who some say was AC/DC's first roadie, though others argue he was more like the band's manager, and the case of Bon Scott's "stolen" motorcycle.

Bon Scott with fans in 1976.

Bon Scott with fans in 1976.

"Ray lived around the corner from the Bondi Lifesaver, in Hollywood Avenue. On his lounge you’d find Jimmy Barnes, Swanee … Bon Scott used to be there all the time. He rode this Triumph motorbike, and I remember one day he pulled up with this silly look on his face and a tooth missing.

"He got off the bike and he was off his head. He fell one way and the bike fell the other way. AC/DC were about to go on tour and I said, 'This is no good,' and I said to the other guys, 'We need to get rid of this f—ing motorbike or he’ll kill himself.' So we stole it, took it up to Ray’s place and put it in the garage behind some PA gear and boxes.

"Bon came out and said, 'Can you believe it? Someone stole my f—ing bike,' and Ray said, 'Don’t worry about it – I know all the bikies in town. I’ll see if I can get it back for you. They probably stole it for parts.' When Bon returned to Sydney, Ray said, 'Found your motorbike – I got it back for you.' And Bon went, 'You f—ing legend!'"

Scott's Triumph ended up being "stolen" twice more, each time miraculously just as Scott was embarking on a tour.

Coke, crime and Lane Cove

Who knew sleepy Lane Cove was home to so many notable crime identities?

First, former Kings Cross strip club boss Michael Amante sold his five-bedroom house for $2,785,000 recently. The sale came two years after Amante (son of "Ashtray" Frank Amante) was banned for life from holding a liquor licence after a drug raid on his former Kings Cross club Dreamgirls.

Now, the nearby mansion that was until recently home to convicted cocaine dealer-turned-property developer Joseph Frangieh is set to rack up a suburb record.

The landmark property, which encompasses one of the suburb's few tennis courts, is being sold by Frangieh's estranged wife Sharon, who set a suburb high of $4.25 million when she bought it two years ago.

A source from the Frangieh camp says Joseph has already moved to Queensland.

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